Long gone are the days when Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe and its natives fled to all corners of the globe in search of refuge.
Today, it is cool to be Irish and, thanks to the likes of The Corrs, Boyzone and U2, evocative images of Ireland now pervade popular culture across the globe.
The Ireland of the new millennium is a modern, progressive European nation whose ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy is booming, but it is not only Irish eyes that are smiling as more and more tourists discover Ireland for themselves.
Landscape and people are what bring most visitors to Ireland. Once there, few are disappointed by the reality of the stock Irish images - the green, rain-hazed loughs and wild, bluff coastlines, the inspired talent for talk and conversation, the easy pace and rhythms of life. What is perhaps more of a surprise is how much variety this very small land packs into its countryside.
Since March 2004 almost all places of work, including bars, restaurants, cafés etc, in Ireland have been smoke-free. Hotels and Bed&Breakfast are not required by law to be smoke-free, but many are.
Many people who have never been to the Isle of Man are not sure exactly where it is! The answer is that it lies in the Irish Sea, between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, less than 60 miles west of the Lancashire coastline, and it is easy to get to thanks to excellent air and sea connections.
The Isle of Man is one of the most beautiful spots in Britain, a mountainous, cliff-fringed island just thirty-one miles by thirteen, into which are shoehorned austere moor lands and wooded glens, sandy beaches, fine castles, beguiling narrow-gauge railways and scores of standing stones and Celtic crosses.
The Isle of Man has been spared the worst excesses of the British tourist trade; there's peace and quiet in abundance, walks around the un-spoilt hundred mile coast line, picket fences and picnic spots, rural villages, steam trains and cream teas - a yesteryear ensemble if ever there was one.
Although the landscapes are wonderful, the island's main tourist draw is the Isle of Man TT motorcycle races run in the first two weeks of June - a frenzy of speed and burning rubber that attracts motorcycle fans from all corners of the world.